Dr. Lord Jephthah Joojo Gowans


Dept: Biochemistry and Biotechnology
Aboagye Menya Complex
College of Science

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Research Areas/Interests

Genetic and environmental factors in the aetiology of human orofacial clefts   Molecular Genetics aetiology of craniosynostosis.  ...~more


Dr. Gowans’ education, career path and expertise are in medical Genetics, Genomics and biotechnology, as well as developmental biology. His research interests include genetics and genomics of craniofacial phenotypes and other birth defects, including orofacial clefts, dental anomalies and craniosynostosis. He conceived and initiated the first ever genetics and genomics research on these conditions among Ghanaians. Dr. Gowans employs phenomics, exposomics, genome sequencing technologies, genetic engineering, cell lines, animal models (zebrafish) and bioinformatic tools to study these structural birth defects. He has cutting-edge publications on genetics and genomics research on dental and craniofacial anomalies and his group is credited for frontiering such research among Africans. His group carried out the first ever genome-wide association studies (GWAS) and whole genome sequencing (WGS) projects on orofacial clefts cohorts from Africa. Through the GWAS, his group discovered two novel genes (CTNNA2 and SULT2A1) associated with cleft palate aetiology. Dental anomalies he studies include microdontia, taurodontism, dens-in-dente, etc. He recently added craniosynostosis to the repertoire of diseases he studies. Dr. Gowans believes that the African genome, being the ancestral and oldest human genome with shorter haplotype blocks, when juxtaposed with the genome of other human ancestries could map and refine genetic pathways and variants that could impact positively on the aetiology, care and prevention of congenital disorders. Dr. Gowans thus directs and heads the Cleft-Craniofacial Genetics and Genomics Research Team at KNUST.

 Dr. Gowans has extensive collaborations with both domestic and international scientists from University of Lagos (Nigeria), Addis Ababa University (Ethiopia), and The University of Iowa (USA) through the African Craniofacial Anomalies Research Network (AfriCRAN) aimed at conducting cutting-edge research on orofacial clefts and other craniofacial birth defects. His craniosynostosis research is in collaboration with scientists at the University of Washington (UW)/Seattle Children’s Research Institute (SCRI), USA. 

As a Lecturer, Dr. Gowans teaches courses in molecular genetics, molecular biology, and biotechnology to graduate and undergraduate students of Biochemistry, and Biotechnology. He also serves as a Service Lecturer to the Dental School at KNUST where he instructs Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) students on genetics and genomics of dental and craniofacial phenotypes, as well as health research.

 Dr. Gowans obtained his BSc degree in Biological Sciences at KNUST. During his PhD studies (which was a collaborative training between KNUST and the University of Iowa, USA), he majored in genetics, genomics and developmental biology, with a focus on craniofacial and dental anomalies research. His PhD research on the genetics and genomics of orofacial clefts was the first to be conducted among Ghanaians. Dr. Gowans also acquired a professional certification in genetics and genomics (SCGG) from  Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA. He also obtained Certificate in Human and Mammalian Genetics and Genomics (CHMGG; McKusick Short Course) from Jackson Laboratory, USA, as well as Certificate in Statistical Genetics (CiSG; Summer Institute) from University of Washington. He also holds a Certificate in Statistical Genetics (CiSG) from the University of Washington, Seattle, USA. Dr. Gowans once served as a Senior Research Fellow (postdoctoral) on an H3Africa Bioinformatics Training and Education Node project, called WASLITBRe, at KNUST, as well as a Consultant on an H3ABioNet Bioinformatics project at KCCR, KNUST. He was a Fellow of Human Hereditary and Health (H3Africa) Consortium. In addition, he has attended and presented abstracts at several international conferences and workshops, including McKusick Short Course in Human and Mammalian Genetics and Genomics at Jackson Laboratory, USA, American Society of Human Genetics, H3Africa Consortium, American and International Association for Dental Research, etc. He is also a Visiting Research Scholar to the Butali Lab, Craniofacial Anomalies Research Center (College of Medicine) and Iowa Institute for Oral Health Research (College of Dentistry), The University of Iowa, Iowa City, USA.

 Dr. Gowans is a member of several professional societies in dentistry/oral health sciences, genetics, genomics, developmental biology and science in general. As a member of the Ghana Cleft Foundation, Dr. Gowans serves as the Geneticist and Genetic Counselor in the Cleft-Craniofacial Team at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH), Kumasi. He is also a member of American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG), The Global Genomic Medicine Collaborative (G2MC), African Society of Human Genetics (AfSHG), International Association for Dental Research (IADR), American Association for Dental Research (AADR), American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association (ACPA), African Craniofacial Anomalies Network (AfriCRAN) and Ghana Science Association (GSA).

 Dr. Gowans is a well-funded researcher, having obtained several subawards from the University of Iowa, USA, as well as serving as Co-Investigator (Co-I) and Principal Investigator (PI) on a number of National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded projects. He is currently the PI on the following NIH grants:

  1. August 2020 – April 2023: Fogarty International Center (FIC) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), USA, R21 Award. Grant number: R21TW011729, Project Title: Molecular Genetic Etiology of Craniosynostosis among Ghanaians (MoGECaG).
  2. September 2019 - June 2024: National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) and Fogarty International Center (FIC) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), USA, Emerging Global Leader Award. Grant number: K43DE029427, Project Title: Elucidating Cleft Etiology Employing Multiplex and Twin Families (ElCEEMuTF).

 Dr. Gowans is also a Co-I on the following NIH research grants:

  1. June 2021 - May 2026: Center for Inherited Disease Research (CIDR) at NHGRI/NIH, USA, X01 AwardGrant number: 1X01HG012162-01. Project Title: Whole Genome Sequencing of Bilateral Cleft Lip and Palate Families from Africa. Principal Investigator (PI): Azeez Butali, University of Iowa, Iowa, USA.
  2. August 2020 – June 2022: National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), USA, Administrative Supplement for R01 Award. Grant number: 3 R01 DE028300, Project Title: Orofacial Clefts, Whole Genome Sequencing and Incidental Findings: Ethical Considerations. Principal Investigators (PIs): Azeez Butali, Murray and Prince, University of Iowa, Iowa, USA.
  3. February 2020 – January 2025: National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), USA, R01 Award. Grant number: 1R01DE028300, Project Title: Refining the Genetic and Genomic Architecture of Non-syndromic Orofacial Clefts. Principal Investigator (PI): Azeez Butali, University of Iowa, Iowa, USA.
  4. July 2017 – June 2022: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)/NIH Gabriella Miller Kids First X01 HL140516-01, Whole Genome Sequencing of African and Asian Orofacial Clefts Case-Parent Triads. Principal Investigator (PI): Azeez Butali, University of Iowa, Iowa, USA.

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